Another stretch of the Rhine doubled up

I'm not making a lot of headway in my quest to follow the Rhine from source to mouth at the moment. Major portions will have to wait until I quit my job in June.
But I don't mind at all if I get to do smaller outings such as Saturday's: My daughters and I packed our two foldable/inflatable canoes on a train and a bus to launch them 6 km upriver at Rüdlingen, a picturesque village with a church perched high up above the river and some vineyards.
After the rather sweaty travails of putting my Pakboat together (how much can you forget over a long winter?), we drifted down the fast-running green waters until after the bridge to Flaach, you could already feel the effect of the dam. The current slowly relented, and we needed to paddle a tiny bit to make some progress. The girls enthused about this deeply cut wooded trench: "It's like the Amazon, minus the monkeys and piranhas."
Despite the leisurely tempo, it took us only an hour and a half to float back to the departure point under the railway bridge. Of course, I have run up and down this piece of Rhine many times before. 
Since I already have tons of photos from the river around Eglisau, I only took my action cam with me, and stupidly neglected to clean the lens and the plastic case. Hence the smear. I also forgot to back-up and erase the previous films, so there was no more space on the SD card for movies. Next time, I'll be better prepared. But then again, photos can't really convey the impression of a perfect canoe trip.


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Companion to a musical adventurer

Yesterday, I rode my bicycle from the Eglisau power station to Kadelburg, a stretch of the Rhine I had before covered in my folding kayak. I wasn't alone this time, and escorting the wonderful Ida Riegels between two concerts was a pleasure. She carries a huge red cello case on her back, which holds her recently completed self-built cello. It's still unvarnished, an unshiny ebony white. 

With three handfuls of locals, I'd listened to her playing her new instrument in Glattfelden the evening before, a programme of Bach and her own Capriccios. We in the audience didn't know what was more impressive, her solo tour with the cello on her back or the intimate sharing of these musical pieces of the heart.

On the cycle path and on a park bench in Kadelburg, we compared notes and I showed her the map of my own project, involving cycling through 80 language areas in Europe. When she completes her bicycle tour of 35 concerts in Rotterdam, I will set out for the last leg of my adventure, Gagausia.

Along the way, we kept being stopped by hikers and cyclists who had read about Ida's journey in the local papers. I wasn't envious at all - in fact I prefer to go unrecognized. But then I don't carry a red cello case on my back.  

Here's a link to the blog of her Rhine concert tour.
I made a video of our outing together.

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Last visit - ever?

This week I went to the tiny village of Elsau near Winterthur for my last coaching visit. The lesson started at 07:20 am and so I had to leave my home at 5:30 to catch a train, and then another, and then a bus. But it was such a wonderful dewy spring morning that it was well worth the yawns and sighs. The lesson ran well, the kids were surprisingly concentrated. They were working with Voices, the course book I'd helped to develop. And in fact they were dealing with a listening piece that I had written when I'd been in Brisbane, 10 years ago, on the basis of an interview with an Indian girl who had immigrated to Australia with her parents. I wonder what has become of Vipasha since. 

In any case, several worlds were intertwined in my mind on that sunny morning - and I had even time to go for a walk up to the rim of the woods and the cemetery before I had to catch the bus back. 

The picture below was taken in another classroom this week, showing that pupils do all sorts of interesting stuff with 'my' books as they take possession of them.

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Current local politics

The last few weeks were all but dominated by the elections in Eglisau for the various councils and committees. I ran for re-election as a member of the school board. The local progressive party, Fokus Eglisau, kindly supported my candidature although I'm not a member per se. 
For the post-election party at the venerable Weiherbachhaus, I paddled my folding canoe up the river. The jokes were programmed as I joined the group of candidates and supporters with my life vest and paddle. It turned out to be a long wait, probably because the good people at the election office counted and re-counted the slips a number of times. For good reasons: some eight years ago, the president of the town council had won by just one vote. Now the same incumbent lost the election by 18 votes and dropped out of the council. This would surely not have happened if she had filled her office with sensible and effective projects instead of often vapid talk and toasts at not-so-glamourous events. So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut would say.
Personally, I'm very grateful to the 1000 plus citizens of Eglisau who gave me their vote, expressing a great deal of trust that I would continue to care for the well-being of the local school, the children and youngsters as well as the teachers. Thank you!
I paddled down the few hundred meters to the Stampfi neighborhood carried by a decent current. I wouldn't have needed the life vest.

Swan song upon crossing the Rhine

Today, I did one of my last school visits, observing an English lesson taught by a student of mine. The school is in Marthalen, about 20 km from my own neck of the woods, and hard to reach by public transport.
So I decided to journey there on my bike. Yes, the one I'd used to cycle from Scotland to Turkey and from Norway to Romania. It's still running strong while me, myself and I: less so, on this first outing this spring. I had calculated a good hour, but it took me a bit longer because (hark, hark, an excuse is coming up) I often had to stop and marvel at the wondrous spring morning and its sights and sounds.
I crossed the Rhine on the one-lane bridge between Rüdlingen and Flaach, and the River Thur shortly afterwards. Marthalen is the most picturesque village of the area, but the remarkable thing was the spotless behaviour of the pupils in this large secondary school class, quite a contrast from their peers in the city of two days ago. If anything, they were a bit too cowed for my taste.
On my way back I took the shortcut through Germany, via the tiny hamlet of Nack. To reach it, I had to take a ferry. It was one of those contraptions hanging on to a rope across the river and using only the current and a rudder. I guess it's the physics of friction.
In Ellikon, at the ferry head, I observed too swans in a synchronized mating dance. Elegant though it looked, I was a little shocked when the male grasped his partner around the neck with his beak and submerged her for quite a few seconds. It didn't look like consensual sex, and the fleeting question ran through my head if swans could also twitter #metoo. 


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